Story: At one time in the 90s, Beanie Babies were believed to be as rock solid of an investment as you could make, with a secondary market that kept skyrocketing in value. Of course, all good things come to an end and such was the case with the cute, collectible stuffed animals, which would suffer a drastic bottoming out of the market. A small bear could be purchased for a few dollars and spun into hundreds, sometimes thousands of dollars, while grown adults stalked gift shops, called over the country to order via credit card, and waited in lines for hours for a chance to score rare Beanie Babies. In Beanie Mania, we are given a front row seat to the rise and fall of the Beanie phenomena, from first hand accounts of those who were at the center of it. Are there lessons to be learned from the greed and obsession and if so, did those lessons stick?
Entertainment Value: The Beanie Baby craze was a wild ride and I hoped this documentary would be an in depth, insightful look into that phenomena, rather than a nostalgia piece or a surface level program that just rehashed old information. I wish we could have heard from shady owner Ty Warner in a first hand interview, but otherwise, Beanie Mania exceeded all of my expectations and turns out to be another excellent documentary from HBO Max. The material is treated seriously, but with a sharp edge of humor at times and descents into darker elements at other times. I am glad that the piece didn’t shy away from the more downbeat elements of the fad, as it is did result in some negative experiences for many of those involved. So if you want an upbeat, shallow look at the craze, this isn’t that, but again, it doesn’t shy from bursts of humor when it makes sense. I was glued to the screen the entire time, as Beanie Mania is skilled at keep your interest through a fast pace, a steady pace of twists and turns, and of course, an assortment of colorful characters.
Those colorful characters include workers from Ty Inc., retail partners of the toy maker, second market players from the boom period, and a group of suburban wives that not only drove the craze, but let it consume their lives in the process. The story of the Naperville women is especially fascinating, since one neighborhood had such a huge role in the Beanie Baby mania and the interviews with them are some of the highlights of the picture. They also feature prominently into the archival footage, which is again, so fascinating to watch after all these years. If you weren’t around or paying attention as it happened, this will likely be quite eye opening. The absence of Ty Warner is palpable, but the movie makes sure to include his story through first hand accounts from some who crossed paths with him, as well as offering updates on Ty’s actions since the Beanies took a downturn. I loved this documentary, it was brisk, but well detailed and was both informative and entertaining. I’d recommend this to anyone who appreciates wild, well crafted documentaries.